– Bishop Antonio Ledesma, S.J., of the Prelature of Ipil in Zamboanga del Sur, is urging the government to set aside more funds in assisting small farmers to go into sustainable agriculture instead of pushing the immediate propagation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
“In the absence of compelling human emergency, there is no justifiable reason to introduce in a hurry new untested technology until we have solid proof of their utility and safety,” the bishop said in a statement in the CBCP Monitor, the publication of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. CBCP President Orlando Quevedo, archbishop of Cotabato, earlier issued the same statement.
On the technology issue, Ledesma noted that GMO industries tend to come up with genes that produce toxins against which insects will build up resistance. He said it is similar to the “green revolution” during the Marcos years that was found to be not ecologically sustainable. “Rice yields have been falling gradually since the 1980s because of long-term soil degradation. By increasing plant yields, some scientists believe that biotechnology creates an unsustainable burden of production on the soil structure,” he said.
The bishop asked if the GMO technology is “socially just.” As experienced in Canada, Ledesma said, GM crops have contaminated non-GM plants, eventually wiping out traditional seed farming. “Merely a few transnational companies hold a monopoly on the seeds. The question is: ‘Who then benefits from this global food system?’” he said.
Reiterating the Philippine bishops’ call for a moratorium on GMOs, Ledesma believes that transgenic technology may be used for medicinal purposes, as well as for feed and food. “However, proper safeguards should likewise be considered,” he added.